The Government of Canada finally got back to us late yesterday about the nature of a request for Social Media Monitoring services to help its several departments and agencies across the country.
The Government monitors social media as a part of its general media monitoring services, said a spokesperson for Public Works and Government Services Canada, the department overseeing the tender, admitting at the outset that agencies use the data of Canadians off of social media to inform specific policy.
However, the same spokesperson added that government departments dont rely solely on that data to inform its policy. Along with monitoring Facebook or sites like Instagram federal workers use a variety of tools including citizen feedback, media monitoring and opinion research.
The Government monitors social media as a part of its general media monitoring services
Clearly, the effort is at the behest of government agencies requiring these specified surveillance services to achieve their legislated goals. Especially when a laundry list of bidders are already lining up to provide that service in anticipation of the business.
A list of bidders on the tender. Image: Buy and Sell
While the government said this particular request is not a contract for these services in the immediate, per se, it will establish a list of sanctioned suppliers to buy from when the government does need to surveil stuff like citizen Twitter accounts to aggregate data. And the government said its leaving those bids wide open, to evidently attract more firms that are right for the job.
Not to mention, as weve established, the Canadian government is becoming increasingly dependant on these surveillance services focusing on social media monitoring. But an interim Privacy Commissioner already questioned the legality of government social media monitoring in May.
In effect, when a department like Public Safety needs to understand how its corny Get Cyber Safe campaign is being received online, it might refer to a list of pre-arranged social media monitoring agents like IBM, SecDev, or IG Global Intelligence for the job. Or, as in the case of the Prime Ministers Office, spend millions on media monitoring services to understand how to politically spin voter interests.
According to PWGSC the request for supply arrangements in 2013 originally attracted 25 bids with eight firms confirmed as suppliers.
The solicitation was then posted again with a closing date of January 31, 2019 so that companies can bid at anytime to get on the list of pre-qualified suppliers, said the spokesperson, which leaves plenty of time for more private firms to enter the fray.
Since, the spokesperson said 18 different companies have bid for the right to surveil your social media accounts on behalf of the Canadian government. And that includes everything from, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, chatrooms, message boards, social networks and video and image sharing websites
Ultimately, its evidence alone that the Canadian government is interested in social media monitoring services. And if all of these bidders are any indication, theres a lot of business in surveilling tweets for the Canadian government.